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Old January 21, 2010, 10:17 PM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Default Customs and beliefs of indigenous tribes of Bangladesh

The following tidbits about the ethnic tribes of Bangladesh have been culled from bengaliwiki which I found really fascinating. Further contribution would be appreciated.

  • Malpaharis believe that spirits may possess a woman at her wedding and that they may possess both mother and newborn at childbirth. They are always on the lookout for danger. khasias and mundas believe that the spirits of dead children and of one's ancestors may visit a house and therefore they erect a stone platform for these spirits. All tribes believe in household gods that regulate their well being.

  • Garos eat all animals except cats, which is their totem. In the past, Garos used to put on barks of trees. Garos burn the barks of banana trunks and use their ashes for making soap and salt. Many also use the ashes as a special ingredient in making food. Fruits comprise the staple food of Garos.

  • According to a Garo legend, they had their scriptures written on rhinoceros skin. These scripts were lost during a journey. While hunting, a zamindar of Mymensingh found a few torn pages of the manuscript in a cave of the Garo hills and published them in the newspaper Saurav. But the reproduction was hazy and the words illegible. Outwardly, they look like the Chinese pictogram. Garos speak in both Garo and Bangla.

  • When a new baby takes birth in a Tripura family, the mother is to observe days of impurity and she is not allowed to cook. After some days of the birth, when the navel is dried, a ceremonial feast is organised to give a name to the new born.The body of a baby dying before the growth of teeth is sometimes taken in a rag basket and is hung in a branch of tree in the forest.

  • Polygamy is not forbidden in the Garo community. After the death of the husband, the wife can claim anybody without a wife in the husband's clan to become her new husband. In such a marriage, the bride and the bridegroom may often not match in age. After the death of the husband, a woman can have her son-in-law as her own husband, too and the daughter and the mother may live peacefully as co-wives. If, on consideration of any special situation in a clan, someone marries a minor girl, he can have sexual relationship with his mother-in-law during the period until his wife attains maturity. In the past, there was a practice of group marriage and free sex in Garo society. Now, however, extramarital sexual relationship in Garo society is seen as a crime and is liable to punishment.

  • When Oraons start tilling the field, they will do so from the east. They will wait for an auspicious day to begin building a house. They believe that it is inauspicious to comb hair at night, to throw women's hair outside, to sweep a house at sunset, to give something to someone after dusk, to hear an owl hooting, or a dog weeping at night.

  • Murongs have many different ways of performing marriage ceremony but the ceremony is usually very short. Once a couple is selected for marriage, they slaughter a cock in presence of the couple. When the blood gushes from the vein, someone dips his middle finger and anoints the forehead of the bride and groom. Then follows the declaration that they are husband and wife. After this brief ceremony, the bride and groom eat together and the invitees and guests sprinkle water and rice to bless the couple. Divorce is allowed in the Murong society. But the husband can not divorce his wife without a legitimate cause. If a man divorces his wife without any cause, he will be left alone in a deep jungle only with an axe to defend himself from wild animals

  • It is a sin for the Khasias not to marry.

  • A pregnant Oraon woman will not to eat rats or eels for fear of making her child hideous. After childbirth she is forbidden to eat khesari (a type of lentils), potatoes, or stale food. She is not allowed to drink cold water. Manipuris do not allow their pregnant women to go out in the open with their hair loose; they are also not allowed to go far at night, nor to cross a river or a bridge

  • The rate of literacy in the Garo community is higher among the women than among the men. The reason is the matriarchal system. This makes it difficult for a girl to find a husband with equal standing.

  • Unmarried [Tripura] girls distinguish themselves by wearing colourful clothes. Both men and women wear crescent shaped silver earrings.

  • A significant element in Bawm culture is the bamboo dance. It is performed only when there is a tragedy in the family, especially in the case of an unnatural death. Through this dance Bawms console their families.

  • Among both Oraons and Manipuris, the bridal couple go round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass. Among the Manipuris the groom is welcomed by lighting a pradip (oil lamp) and his feet are washed by a young boy. At this time kirtan is sung and music is played. Two women from both sides release a pair of taki fish symbolising the groom and the bride into water. It is a good omen if the pair of fish move side by side in the water. In a similar ceremony among the Garos, a cock and hen, with throats slit, are thrown to the ground. It is a good omen if, while they are in their death throes, the two come together to die. Otherwise, it is an ill omen and must be remedied through prayer and incantation by a khamal (mendicant). The gods are offered special food on the occasion so that they may bless the couple

  • Mros are animists and have three gods: Turai, the creator of the universe, Sangtung, the spirit of the hill, and Oreng, the river deity. In starting any venture, they take oath in the name of Turai; the Sangtung (hill spirit) is considered sacred, and they offer prayer to this hill spirit for good harvest in jhum cultivation. Oreng is worshipped collectively for the welfare of the villagers and to keep out epidemic diseases and bad luck. Mros do not believe in the next world ie, the world after death and they direct all their activities to the present world.

  • Garos have their own sports and games. They build houses on elevated platforms and decorate the jadaps (rooms) with the horns of buffalos and deer. In the past, they used to decorate the houses with human skulls also. These skulls were of men attacked and slain in the plains and were symbols of power, aristocracy and heroism. Garos also traded in human skulls. Garo houses have separate cowsheds and granaries. Almost every big Garo village has a big decorated house or nakpanthe at its centre. This is used for residence and recreation of the young men of the village. However, girls are not allowed to enter the house.

  • Monipuris have their own rituals regarding disposal of the dead body. They keep the dying person outside the house on a banana leaf, while Kirtans are chanted. Dead bodies are washed with the head pointed northward. They bury bodies of adolescents and cremate bodies of older persons. After disposing of the body, the pallbearers take a bath and dry their hands by holding them above a fire before entering their house.

  • Tripuras are divided into at least 36 groups (dafas) of which 16 are in Bangladesh. Some of these groups have a number of subgroups. All groups and subgroups have their own dialects, dresses and ornaments. Each of these groups/subgroups is usually named after an incidence they encountered or occupation they practise.

  • They [Oraons] have many superstitions regarding journeys. For example, Oraons will not undertake a journey if they stumble at the start, someone beckons from behind, a house-lizard calls out, a message is delivered about someone's death, a corpse appears on the way, a crow caws on a dry twig, or an empty pitcher comes in view.

  • The Oraons believe that the spirit of a still-born child is reborn and that some Ayurvedic physicians have the power to prevent the appearance of evil spirits.

  • Patras practise two types of marriage: Sitakkhi and Taitakkhi. Sitakkhi is a kind of forcible marriage, which is also known as Chhaibhashma. Taitakkhi marriage is close to Hindu marriage. The Patra society is patriarchal. Only sons inherit father's property. If a Patra does not have a son, his brothers or sons of his brothers become the heirs.

  • Oraons also have certain superstitions about cows. Thus they give away the first yield of milk from a lactating cow, and will not let a menstruating woman or a woman who has not completed the period of confinement after childbirth enter a cowshed. Women must not take the name of the husband's elder brother. Oraons believe that magic can be used to enthrall women. They also believe in the power of spells and charms. For protection against witches they go to Ayurvedic physicians.

  • Another Mro ritual is champua. On a fixed day, young boys and girls go to the dense forest to cut banana leaves and celebrate the festival by dancing and singing till dawn. Such a ritual gives young men and women the chance to select their life partners.

  • The Garos do not believe in witches. However, they do believe that some men become tigers at night and attack and kill cattle. They also believe that those who are killed by wild animals are reborn as animals.

  • Pankhos have different styles of hair-dressing, which reveal their distinct identity.

  • Sacrifice of cow constitutes one of the principal ceremonies of the Mros; it is called Kumulong. Acoording to Mro mythology, the religious book that their god sent to their forefathers was in the form of scriptures written on banana leaves. A messenger was given the scriptures and some clothes for Mro women to wear. In course of his journey, the messenger halted on the bank of a river, left the scriptures and the clothes on the bank and went to take a bath. On his return, he found that a cow had eaten up the leaves and nothing is left out of the holy book. The cow also swallowed up the major part of the clothes. This is how Mros were left without formal religion and their women got to wear few clothes. For this act, Mros punish a cow every year ceremoniously. A well-fed cow is tied to a pole in an open space where the whole village assembles. Drinking and dancing around the cow continue till afternoon, when they start striking the cow with a painted bamboo stick till blood gushes from its body and it dies. The blood of the cow is considered sacred and preserved in bamboo pots. The animal body is cut off with a sharp dao. Then the villagers sit in a circle. The elderly Mro villagers distribute the blood to every member so that they can suck it. Later, they eat the roasted flesh of the cow. In the ceremony, all persons are urged to live in peace with their neighbours and relatives.

  • Besides traditional beliefs, Garos follow their own religion Sangshareq, which has roots in agriculture. They are not concerned about worshipping idols and do not bother about sin and virtue, gods and goddesses and heaven and hell. They observe thirteen or more brata (vows) and festivals in a year and pray for the fertility of the soil, safety of the harvests and protection from evil spirits, diseases and epidemics. The Sangshareq religion has elements of mantra-tantra and magic. Garos are animists and believe in dual existence of matters. They ascribe life to nature and inanimate objects and consider snakes and tigers as personised forms of dead souls. According to their belief, some men remain men at daytime, but become tigers at night. Garos name such men the Matsadu Matsabed. They believe that some trees, stones and hills are the abodes of the spirits and therefore, it is better to keep away from them. Among Garos, the people who arrange festivals, organise vows, and treat and cure patients by folk medicines are persons with supernatural power and therefore, enjoy respect and honour in the community. These persons are named khamal or kamal. Garos do not give their children any sweet names because, they believe, such names may attract evil spirits and cause harm to them.
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Last edited by Zeeshan; January 21, 2010 at 10:43 PM..
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Old January 21, 2010, 10:52 PM
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bujhee kom bujhee kom is offline
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Zee, I know many people said it many times before and I voiced it too in the past, but I will say it again, Gopal bhai, you always make BC a better place and you always enlighten us with things, beautiful great threads that always help this site retain it's sacredness. We are indeed indebted to you, at least I am.

My wife is an anthropologist/archeologist (Pre-Columbian digs and new age cult groups) and I asked her to read this thread of yours as she is very much interested in our tribal heritage and pride. She is reading it.
God bless Ingrid Newkirk, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris & Mitch Landrieu!
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Old January 22, 2010, 01:29 AM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Thank you Zaved bhai although what I did was merely copy and paste. You are too kind.

Btw...I didn't know that your wife's profession. Wow! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing this with her..

Last edited by Zeeshan; January 22, 2010 at 01:35 AM..
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Old January 22, 2010, 01:31 AM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Here is a rare sample of a page from the book Hill proverbs of the inhabitants of the Chittagong hill tracts by T.H.Lewin. Not many copies are available in amazon so the interested might wanna hurry! I sure hope to buy it and will def. upload some contents from there. This is gold (or at least to me).

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Old January 22, 2010, 06:40 AM
BD-Shardul BD-Shardul is offline
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ZM bhai: eishob amra class 4-8 e porsi amader social science boi e ekta kore chapter thakto "upojatider jibondhara".
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Old January 22, 2010, 10:18 AM
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Purbasha T Purbasha T is offline
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Yecch Shardul bro. I remember too...and I used to succk in Social Science.
Man is here.
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Old January 22, 2010, 03:33 PM
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Beamer Beamer is offline
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I found the Santals of North Bengal interesting during my travels there. Saw first hand how our Eastern citizens carry out day-to-day activities during travels in CTG Hill tracts as well. They make our heritage richer.
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Old January 22, 2010, 09:44 PM
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Nice read Zee, thanks. Interesting that they're still publishing that book.
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Old September 24, 2012, 07:42 PM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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They Ask If We Eat Frogs: Garo Ethnicity in Bangladesh by Ellen Bal (Google Books) should be mentioned in this thread. /Perdon the bump bosses and big bosses.
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Old September 24, 2012, 07:49 PM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Professor Naveeda Khan ki dosh korlo?


Edit: LOL i actually pinged her to help me...should we invite her to BC?


Shamanism in Bangladesh
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